© 1998 jointly in the following individuals: Jim Geissman, David Graham, Jim MacQueen, Connie Matthies, Jim Meinhold, Chris Mohr, Gary Rue, Ken Smith, Dave Teetz, Ron Tremper, who are together known pseudonymously as the SOCCER-COACH-L LOTG COLLECTIVE

Law 15 - The Throw-In

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A throw-in is a method of restarting play used when the ball passes entirely over the touch line. When properly executed, the ball is thrown from the point where it crossed the touch line, by any player of the team that did not touch it last.


A throw-in is awarded when the whole of the ball passes over the touch line, either on the ground or in the air.

If the ball goes over the line in the air and is blown back in before touching the ground, it is still out at the point where it crossed the line. If in doubt, play on. This is subject to some interpretation and is discussed in more detail below. In general, referees are not too insistent on a player finding the actual blade of grass at which the ball passed over the line but are satisfied with an honest attempt at estimating the spot. While the ball technically goes to the opponent of the player who last touched it, the determination of "who touched it last" can be difficult, if not impossible, for the referee to make in all instances. If your player feels that the ball went off of the opponent, he should immediately retrieve the ball and take the throw in as this can "help" the referee make the choice. In general, a referee who is unsure will normally give the throw to the defenders.


At the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower:
  1. faces the field of play (and normally also faces the direction in which he is going to throw the ball);
  2. has part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground outside the touch line (that is, the thrower's feet may not be entirely inside the touch line);
  3. uses both hands (many referees interpret this to mean "with equal force")
  4. delivers the ball from behind and over his head.

Questions on Law 15

15.01 To what extent, if any, can a player taking a throw-in face one way with their head and / or body, and throw it another, so long as the throw is made two-handed, over their head?

In general, referees will call any throw that does not pass from the back of the head to the front of the head. Therefore, in most instances, looking one way and throwing the other will result in a throw-in for the opposition. Remember also that the body must be facing the field of play at the time of the throw.

15.02 How close to the spot where the ball actually crossed the touch line does the thrower have to be?

It all depends on the referee and the ARs. In general, referees will allow players to be approximately 1m from the spot where the ball went out of play in any direction. That is, in most cases a player can stand 1-2 m BACK from the touch line and 1m moving parallel to the touch line from the point where the ball went out. However, if there is an AR who is right on the spot, players should throw the ball from the spot indicated. In general, however, all involved generally operate on a "feel" for the correct place especially in cases where the ball is kicked to touch high and wide.

15.03 Is it illegal for the thrower to impart sidespin to the ball on a throw-in?

This once again depends on the judgement of the referee team. The law states that the ball must be thrown with two hands. There are referees who assume that this means "with equal pressure from each of two hands" and blow up all balls coming in with any spin at all while others are more lenient. In general, we recommend that players refrain from trying to put "spin" on the ball as at best it just makes it harder for their teammate to control while at worst it results in a throw-in to the opposition.

15.04 A player attempts to direct a throw-in "down the line". How does the referee judge when it's in play?

Assuming that there is no foul play, delay of game, etc. involved in the throw:

Once the ball is in play, the normal guidelines for determining who should take any subsequent throw-ins apply.

15.05 Are there any requirements or potential rules pitfalls in one player retrieving the ball and then turning the ball over to a teammate to make the throw-in instead?

There are some potential problems here. If, for example, an attacking right striker picks up the ball on the opponents 1 M line to throw in and then decides to wait for his left fullback to make their way across the field to take the throw the referee might consider this to be wasting time and issue a yellow card. In addition, it is always best to be sure that the person coming to take the throw steps off of the field before the retrieving player tosses the ball to them to avoid any possibility of being called for an illegal throw. With that said, however, most referees make a differentiation between a player obviously attempting a throw-in and a player simply turning the ball over to another for them to take the throw.

15.06 Are flip (somersault) throw-ins legal?

Once again, it depends on the specific league and the opinion of the referee. At the technical level, there should be no problem as long as the throw meets the basic criteria for a legal throw in (e.g. correct spot, over the head with two hands while facing the field of play, feet in the right position, etc.). Flip throws cannot be ruled "dangerous play", as the ball is not in play. The most common reasons for such throws to be ruled illegal are that both the player's feet were not in contact with the ground or that the player's buttocks were in contact with the ground when the ball was released (in the latter case, the throw is deemed to have been taken from seated position, which is illegal).

15.07 Can the thrower throw the ball directly to their goalie?

The thrower can throw the ball anywhere they want on the field, including directly to the goalie. However, the goalie can no longer play the ball with their hands if receiving it directly from a throw in. The thrower can also throw the ball directly into either goal without having it touch another player but, since no goal can be scored directly from a throw in, the result would be either a corner kick (for into their own goal) or a goal kick (for into the opponents).

15.08 Can the thrower play the ball again before it touches anyone else?

No. Note, however, that the ball does not have to be played by someone else prior to the thrower playing it, just touched. The thrower could, conceiveably bounce the throw off of either an opponent or teammate who wasn't paying close attention and then play it again. However, since the object in a throw in is for the throwing team to retain possession, coaches would be better advised to have throwers look for open teammates and to have the non-throwing players work to get open for a legitimate throw.

15.09 Can the team defending against a throw-in post a player near the thrower to distract or block them? Are there any tactics that are legal?

Yes, up to a point. A defender may stand as close to the thrower as they want, keeping in mind that the ball hurts when it hits you in the face. The defender cannot, however, follow the thrower if he moves his permitted one meter, or jump up and down waving hands and arms, as this will be construed as unfairly distracting the thrower and may lead to a caution.

15.10 What are some suggestions for coaching new or younger players in a throw-in technique that minimizes the chances for illegal throws?

First of all make it absolutely clear that no matter HOW FAR they throw the ball it comes right back for a throw to their opponent if they don't do it correctly. A way to minimize errors in foot placement is to have players stand about 1 foot beyond the line of touch with their feet parallel (e.g. next to each other as opposed to with one foot forward). They are unlikely to either step over the line or lift a foot from this position. Have them hold the ball behind their heads with both hands and tell them to throw it straight over their heads. Emphazise proper form first and then move to working on distance.

15.11 What should I do if I see the ref / linesman letting the other team aggressively get away with fudging on where they make throw-ins (assuming otherwise proper technique)?

A: Instruct your players that THIS referee is allowing players some latitude in where they take their throw-ins from. In general, arguing with the referee is bad form and can come to no good.

15.12 The referee told players from both teams that it is a foul throw if they step on the line while taking a throw-in. What do I do as a coach?

First off, having read the first part of this synopsis, you know that the laws say that it is a legal throw as long as all or part of both feet are on or behind the line at the time the throw is taken. With that said, the referee IS the law in this particular game and, as noted above, arguing with the referee is bad form. Simply tell your players to be sure to stay about 1 foot back from the line of touch when taking throw-ins and to be sure NOT to get close to the line.

After the game, you might want to approach the referee in a calm, rational manner and discuss his/her interpretation.

15.13 The players on the other team are clearly lifting their back foot up off the ground while throwing the ball in but the referee isn't calling it. How come?

A close reading of the laws reveals that the mechanics of the throw in (two hands, feet on ground, etc.) are applicable while the throw is being taken. It is likely in the case cited that the referee is making the judgement that the foot is being raised AFTER the ball is released and, therefore, after the throw has been taken.

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Law 15

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Updated February 26, 1998